The more things change, the more they stay the same.
We are experiencing a period of unprecedented flux in the search industry. But dig deeper, and there are some elements that hold stubbornly true.
Historically, search has been about Google and it has been about text. There has been a shift in this relationship, as voice-based digital assistants like Amazon’s Alexa take hold, and search results become much more varied.
The way we approach search has also changed. Search is now central to most marketing teams and it encompasses a wide variety of skillsets. Everyone from the CMO to the creative team to the data analysis specialists has a vital role to play.
This provides a lot of food for thought for modern marketers. Enough for an all-you-can-eat thought buffet.
Just some of the big trends in our industry in 2017 are:
- Voice search
- Hyperlocal targeting
- Personalized content
- Visual search
- Mobile-first indexing
- Multimedia results
- Personalized SERPs
- Keyword-less search
It used to be so much simpler, right?
All of this can be disconcerting. So how can we stay on top of so much change?
If you react to every new, shiny update, you’ll fall into a trap. The faster our industry changes, the slower we should be in our decision-making. The choices we make now will shape how successful we are over the next few years, so it’s worth taking the time to get them right.
There are some comforting constants within all of this exciting flux.
The act of searching has not changed; it depends on an accurate answer to fulfill its function. Search engines are getting better at judging which answer is the most relevant and for that, we should be grateful. The industry has a long way to go, but the path we are on is a constructive one.
Therefore, with one eye on the present and the other on upcoming trends, we can set ourselves up for short- and long-term search success.
Below are four tips we should all bear in mind as we prepare for the future of search.
1. Use Psychology & Technology to Shape Strategy
People don’t change as quickly as technology. Marketers should understand the psychology behind their audience’s actions.
These eternal marketing principles will take center stage once more as search grows in sophistication. It is in understanding the full breadth of potential interactions our customers can have with our brands that we can thrive in this new ecosystem.
The hardware used to find this information may change, along with the search engine used to power it. However, the user behind the query will have the same impulses and requirements they always had.
Sure, the form these queries take will advance in lock-step with technology. We have seen this with longer queries via voice search, for example. We will see this more and more as users tap icons rather than typing queries.
This is exactly why we shouldn’t chase shadows by targeting specific search queries.
Knowing which keywords led visitors to your site is useful to know. It always will be. But from a strategic standpoint, gaining insight into the intent behind that keyword will be much more valuable.
Both quantitative and qualitative resources are required to reach this level of comprehension into consumers.
This is where we can use technology to our advantage.
Your company’s CRM data can be a goldmine. Even the humble survey still has a role to play.
If you want to know what people are thinking, ask them. Combine this with what you see in your analytics and CRO software to get an idea of what truly leads a customer either to engage or disengage with your brand.
Psychology is the foundation of a great search campaign. Technology enables us to create a stronger foundation than ever before.
2. Structure Your Site Around Topics
Taking this approach to research will provide you with a rounded view of your customers’ preferences and requirements. This then becomes a fantastic resource when you consider the structure of your website, as you can build topical hubs for semantically related content.
We have been talking about this way of structuring sites for quite a while now. The logic is sound: Map different sections of your website to different products and services and, within each, cover every point of the consumer journey with different landing pages. This lends itself to a URL structure that is great for search engines and users alike.
This can be extended to encompass your apps and social media profiles, should they be a more fitting home for certain types of content.
What this provides is a perfect platform to populate with a variety of content formats. Informational pages may benefit from videos while transactional pages require structured, clear answers to pressing questions.
Let’s take as our example an insurance brand. Applying this approach, we would have separate sections for each type of insurance.
We can consider the lead product page in each section to be the main content. This is then supported by supplementary content, which supports the main product page by adding further color and guiding users towards an informed decision.
Often these supplementary pages can be migrated from the blog, with some minor amendments. As a result, your product hub will cover everything from